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By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, March 21, 2008-There’s much to say about global warming and the decline of the environment. We are reminded every day through the news, the weather reports, and even our energy bills, just how precious this Earth is-and how she is changing. However, there are some who are trying to correct this shift; they’re out there sharing their message of a cleaner, greener Earth. As Cotten Alston of Atlanta-based Harry Norman, Realtors says, “Living in a healthier, greener way is the socially responsible thing to do.”

For Harry Norman, Realtors, that message was realized by way of its involvement with EcoBroker, a program designed to help communities-across the U.S. and internationally-take advantage of and encourage energy efficiency and sustainable design in real estate properties. Here, two of the company’s biggest “green” proponents, Realtors Alston and Carson Matthews, explain why everyone should care about our planet, why EcoBroker’s mission is so important to our future, and how you can get involved, too.

Real Estate magazine: How did Harry Norman, Realtors first become involved in EcoBroker?

matthews.jpgCarson Matthews: It really started from a marketing committee. We were trying to find something that our agents could rally around and really be part of. We surveyed what people wanted to see in our business, and “going green” was the clear answer. That just made my heart pound; I immediately felt a passion for it.

So, I started doing some research and I talked with other agents. Everyone was so passionate about this initiative; we knew that we could really do some great things to impact the community. We deal with so many people on a day-to-day basis-we knew we could make an impact on the environment.

alston.jpgCotten Alston: So, after learning more about EcoBroker, we invited them here to Atlanta to hold a certification class so that our agents could become experts in greener real estate. We had 48 people who sat through six hours a day for three days until they finished their certification program.

With such a large turnout, the founder of EcoBroker-John Beldock-decided to attend. He was great; he’s over-the-top passionate about our environment, and has the education to back it up. He has a doctorate and has also worked for the EPA and served as a public speaker. He has this unique ability to be academic but also help you understand in layman’s terms.

CM: Now, we’re the largest group of EcoBroker-certified agents in the world.

Real Estate: What has becoming involved with EcoBroker taught you?

CM: It has changed my life. It’s a complete lifestyle change-from the time I wake up, until the time I go to bed. It’s in everything I look at and everything I do-talking with my clients, how I spend my time during the day. I really kind of preach about greener living, with the hope that others will follow suit. Here’s an example: Several agents from our office in Buckhead recently had to travel to downtown Atlanta. Instead of driving several cars into the city, we decided to take the Marta train (part of Atlanta’s mass transit system), which ended up being much more convenient and less time-consuming. These are the kinds of things that are important.

CA: Real estate agents are not the most energetic of salespeople. We need to get them excited about something, and there’s nothing better than this. As one green builder said to me, “I will never build any other kind of house again, because it’s the right thing to do.” Even after 18 hours of certification, we’re not yet rocket scientists about going green. However, having this understanding now steers us in the right direction.

Real Estate: How do you incorporate these initiatives into your day-to-day business?

CM: I blog about being green on my I talk about everything from water conservation-which is a huge program in our area right now-to energy efficiency. Through doing this, I’ve made a lot of contacts. Plus, other agents-even from other companies-are coming to us and asking for more information on how they can get involved.

It’s our job as stewards of the environment, but also as real estate agents, to educate our clients about what they can do in the homes that they’re buying and/or selling to help this cause. I ask them, “Do you like to save money?” “Are you concerned about air quality or conserving water?”

Real Estate: How are you getting your buyers and sellers involved in these initiatives?

CA: We’re slowly seeing a surge in questions about “green.” There are now a number of builders who construct Certified EarthCraft House and Energy Star-Certified homes, so we’re trying to get the word out there. We’re just getting started.

CM: We tell people that if they’re going to be doing things with their homes, they should try to achieve it with more energy-efficient products and processes. Also, we are encouraging our clients to get an energy rating performed on the home. It’s essentially an energy home inspection. For example, did you know that you can lose a large amount of your home’s energy just by having leaks in your ductwork? This specifically rings true for older homes.

People buy these older houses because of aesthetics-they are truly beautiful and have a lot of character. However, their attics are not insulated. That alone can cost you energy and money. There are now companies that can come into these homes and make them more efficient.

Real Estate: What is Harry Norman, Realtors doing as a company to further the green project?

CA: Our internal education team is working on a program for our agents. Our goal is to impact the community. Living in a healthier, greener way is the socially responsible thing to do, and we will continue to push forward this cause. RE

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